Billionaire beef baron Henry Davis forks out $21 million on Laguna’s Emerald Bay

Today we shall journey deep behind the Orange Curtain. Let’s discuss Laguna Beach’s perennially pricey Emerald Bay community.

We’ve chatted about Emerald Bay on at least one prior occasion. But to reiterate: this neighborhood is more than just another rich-people-only space — it’s a whole lifestyle. Not only does the enclave have one of the slickest websites we’ve ever seen (for a gated community, that is) but the hefty HOA dues go toward maintaining a staffed clubhouse, six tennis courts with a full-time tennis pro/instructor, a 1/2 mile private beach, volleyball courts, basketball court, kids’ playground, three private parks, a heated swimming pool complex, and much more. Heck, the community even has its own fire station.

Emerald Bay, Laguna Beach (photo: emeraldbay.com)

Emerald Bay sprawls across both sides of the PCH and includes some 500 homes. Pricetags start around $4 million or so for inland properties with no view and go all the way up to — well, one can spend as much as one likes. According to Yolanda’s research, the most expensive property ever sold in the enclave is a $45 million, two-house blufftop compound acquired by German billionaire Hasso Plattner in 2014.

Other richie-rich homeowners there include UFC billionaire Frank Fertitta III, LA Fitness CEO/owner/founder Louis Welch, and — until recently — Warren “Oracle of Omaha” Buffett himself.

Speaking of Omaha, Emerald Bay’s newest homeowner also hails from the Big O. He’s a dude named Henry A. Davis, and he recently paid a fat $21,000,000 for an oceanfront mansion down yonder.

Mr. Davis (photo: Jamel Toppin via Forbes)

For Yolanda’s vegan and vegetarian subscribers — like our mama — y’all may wish to stop reading at this point. Our Mr. Davis owns one of the biggest slaughterhouses in the USA — Greater Omaha Packing, a global supplier that shows the beef (literally) to 69 countries around the world. Some of America’s top restaurants, too — the French Laundry, for one. And many upscale steakhouse chains. Ever wondered where your juicy Ruth’s Chris and Lawry’s steaks originate? Now you know.

The business was founded nearly 100 years ago by Mr. Davis’s maternal grandfather Herman Cohen, a Russian-Jewish immigrant who came to America practically penniless.

The 14,000-square-foot Henry Davis compound: Omaha, Nebraska

Aside from his exceedingly lucrative business — Forbes estimates his net worth at $1.3 billion, making him one of the three wealthiest men in Nebraska — Mr. Davis is probably best-known for his acrimonious, years-long divorce from one Mary Kay Davis.

Back in 2006, the Davises settled their drawn-out divorce. Ms. Davis received a $3 million lump sum payment (plus ten-year alimony payments). That’s a big heap of cash but peanuts — or a wee bit of ground beef — to a billionaire like Mr. Davis.

Needless to say, the ex-Mrs. Davis eventually felt shafted! She was pretty bummed out about her bum deal and blasted her lawyer for bunglin’ her case. The lady was bamboozled outta half a billion bucks! Or so she claimed.

So the ex-wife filed a $100 million lawsuit against Mr. Davis. And the case went all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court, marking only the second time the High Court ever heard a matter between two squabbling (ex-)spouses. For what it’s worth, Ms. Davis’s case was dismissed.

Mr. Davis, who has two adult children, has not remarried since his 2006 divorce — perhaps for obvious reasons. Now in his late 60s, he also frankly admits that he has not yet established a succession plan for his business.

And for the record, homeboy is also a world-class car collector — he owns one of the original 1966 Ford GT40s — an automobile that famously whooped Ferrari at LeMans. That car, today, has been fully restored and is worth untold millions. But we digress.

The new Laguna home of Mr. Davis is deceptively modest from the street front — it appears to be a low-slung, fairly ordinary abode. However, the property clings to a precipitously steep cliff and thus drops down mullet-style to four full floors out back. Total living space clocks in at a mansion-sized 6,109-square-feet with 5 bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms.

This place was originally built in 1991 and looks it. The all-beige-everything decor and various accents are akin to what you’d find in many a 90s suburban McMansion. Of course, those suburban McMansions don’t have this sublime location — hence the high price point. For more than 20 years, the house was home to Las Vegas-based trash tycoon Thomas Isola and his wife Mary.

The rooms are quite expansive and the open-concept floorplan lends the interiors a welcome airiness. And from what Yolanda can tell, nearly every level of the home has generous outdoor space, too.

An indulgent master suite features a humongous bedroom with fireplace and sitting area plus a spa-like bath and private outdoor terrace.

Perhaps the property’s coolest feature is this: unlike most oceanfront mansions, this place actually has a sizable landscaped backyard. There’s a decent-sized lawn, mature palm trees and various other tropical flora. Plus an in-ground jacuzzi for when the Pacific is just too chilly! All this just steps from pristine (and essentially private) Emerald Bay beach.

Make no mistake, kids, $21 million is a ton of money — the most paid for a Orange County house so far this year, in fact. And given that this place could use a thorough interior update, so much cash might seem kinda crazy.

But when you gaze out at the sunset over the aquamarine sea, the gentle breezes rustling’ through palm fronds, the “where’s the beef?” problem is magically answered. And suddenly, it all seems worth it. Don’t it?

Listing agent: Celeste Gilles, Villa Real Estate
Henry Davis’s agent: Rob Giem, Compass

CategoriesPower Players
  1. Sandy Santa Monica says:

    I grew up on 1,000 Steps, and I’d say 8 of my 10 favorite LB properties are up in tiny Irvine Cove or Emerald Bay on the beach. Compared to what they pay in Carbon, I’d take this place (and a helicopter ☺) all day long at 21.

  2. Steve says:

    Emerald Bay has THE best beach in all of Socal. 21 for a house that size right on the sand is crazy cheap. This guy got the steal of the decade.

  3. Julie Swan says:

    Oh how I miss the “Where’s the beef?!” Commercials- I remember them like it was yesterday. Great post Yolanda, and RIP Clara Peller. 👍🏻

  4. CurlyHairedGrl says:

    I have friends that live here. Undoubtedly, Emerald Bay and Irvine Cove have great private beaches. Be aware, my friends–Emerald Bay is rife with gossipers. If you like to go to the beach, play volleyball or take part in other amenities, you WILL be part of the gossip tree, whether you like it or not. Desperate Housewives live here. I like EB, but hate the fact I couldn’t have any privacy. It is a little better to live on the cliffs between EB and Irvine Cove, as the steep hills protect you a little bit from the gamesmanship

    1. Roger Emerald Federer says:

      Agreed. A friend built his house in Irvine Cove, so I asked him, why not Emerald Bay? He said “if I wanted to go back to high school I would live in Emerald Bay” – I agree. Everyone knows everyone’s business

  5. CurlyHairedGrl says:

    Fun Fact: Both Henry Davis and the Simon family have part time homes here.
    Both from Omaha.
    The Simon’s own Omaha Steaks. I wonder if they will have a welcome bbq and invite Henry Davis over for free red meat.

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